NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County Sheriff Bob White received his official letter Thursday from the County Commission, a two-page document that repeated what was said at last week's final budget hearing:
No, you're not getting more funding for extra deputies for the west side of the county or more money for other expenses.
Your budget next year will be the same as it was this year.
The sheriff called a press conference to let them know he received his mail.
And he used a mafia term for going to war.
"We are going to the mattresses," said White, his face tinged red, his characteristic humor gone.
"I don't care what it takes."
He would not say that he's going to appeal to the state. He did say he's going to the next commission meeting.
"I'll be back there Tuesday to take them to school," White said.
White talked of Ann Parlato, a 94-year-old Regency Park resident who was found murdered in her home last week — days after the commissioners refused his request for more deputies. Parlato's lawnmower, John Sexton, 47, was in custody less than four hours after her body was discovered and is charged with first-degree murder. Parlato's neighbor said he saw Sexton at the widow's home the night before her body was found.
White called her death a "tragic, horrific example of what can happen without a strong law enforcement."
White asked the commissioners to "pull their heads out of the sand" and recognize how dearly these neighborhoods need help.
"Something needs to be done," he said. "This can't wait."
His current budget is $85.5 million. Commissioners asked him to cut his 2010-11 budget by 5 percent. Instead, he requested an extra $3.9 million — more than half of which would pay for 28 new deputies to patrol the Embassy Hills and Holiday areas. The final vote allowed White to keep the same budget he had previously, without the 5 percent decrease.
If the budget stays as it is, White will still have to cut $1.6 million in spending because of retirement and health insurance increases that are out of his control.
White's solution is for the county to hold off on its plans to build a $13 million elections service center and information technology facility and use that money for the deputies and other law enforcement expenses. Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley withdrew his support for the building last week, saying he couldn't in good conscience spend millions of dollars "at a time when our citizens are financially hurting."
But commissioners hold the purse strings.
"It is their choice to not protect their citizens and build a $13 million computer palace," White said.
In an interview Thursday, Commissioner Ann Hildebrand said the problem with that plan is that the deputies are not a one-time expense. They will need their salaries the next year and the year after that and so on.
"It's not like it's a one-time fix," Hildebrand said.
She said she understands White's passion and he "does a great job as our sheriff."
"He's sworn to protect the public, which is what he's trying to do," she said. "And we are charged with having a balanced budget and keeping our property taxes fairly low."
White said he doesn't understand how the commissioners can sleep at night.
"These career politicians are completely and utterly out of touch with their community," White said.
He said it doesn't matter what it costs, he's going to keep on fighting. In talking about the group, he also mentioned County Administrator John Gallagher, who wrote the letter. White said if the commissioners can't figure out how to get more deputies on the streets:
"They should resign and walk away —and take John Gallagher with them."
Commissioner Michael Cox told the Times he has to make difficult decisions, which he does with much research, care and deliberation.
"There is nothing that concerns me more than the safety of our citizens," he said.
He said he stands by his decision.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6229.